By Sports Reporter/Doha
As Al Rayyan and Al Sadd get caught up in the Qatar Clasico hype, Al Duhail are intent on going about their business quietly and efficiently in the QNB Stars League as they have done throughout this season.
The defending champions, who are still unbeaten in the Qatar Stars league this season, are well aware that they have their sixth title well within their grasp provided they don’t suffer a late season meltdown.
Although only two points separate them at the top and Al Sadd, it’s Djamel Belmadi’s Al Duhail who have caught the imagination of fans with their dashing brand of football they have exhibited throughout the season.
Their Moroccan striker Youssef El Arabi is the leading scorer this season with a whopping 20 goals, six clear of his Tunisian teammate Youssef Msakni, while Al Rayyan’s Abdelrazzaq Hamdallah is third with 12.
But Belmadi, was not getting carried away at his press conference ahead of Al Duhail’s match against Al Gharafa today.
“Our goal is to keep winning and we are fully prepared for tough times that require us to stay concentrated. The title race is still wide open and it’s too early to talk about winning the league,” told journalists.
“This match is important for both teams, especially for us, and we have to win it. The same day, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan are playing too. Our team wants to stay in the lead and for that winning is crucial.”
Al Duhail have 39 points from 15 matches, while Al Sadd have 37 and Al Rayyan 39, meaning today could turn out to be the most decisive day this season as far as the QNB Stars League is concerned.
If Al Rayyan beat Al Sadd and Al Duhail lose to Al Gharafa, it would trigger a frantic race to the finish with just six games remaining after today’s matches.
“We are only focused on our match and we are well prepared for that. Of course Al Rayyan and Al Sadd have a historic rivalry in Qatar but it’s important for us to not worry too much about what they are up to.”
Belmadi, whose team will be also involved in the AFC Champions League this season was happy about the fact that a total of four Qatari teams would be figuring in this year’s lucrative continental event, which gets underway next week.
“We are happy to also have three other Qatari clubs — Al Sadd, Al Gharafa and Al Rayyan — in this year’s AFC Champions League. Managing the team technically well will be important in the next phase and we must be ready for all championships.
He also praised Al Gharafa for roping in Dutch star Wesley Sneijder and Iran’s Mahedi Taremi during the recent transfer window.
“Al Gharafa have undergone some changes after the winter transfer period and they have a new coach in Bulent Uygun. Even otherwise, all matches are difficult at this stage. They have been improving of late and have lost only once in the second phase.”
However, Al Gharafa, who are 19 points off the pace, have decided to concentrate on the Champions League and decided to rest some of their senior stars.
“We are in the process of developing a strong squad for the future and that is a great responsibility. We have a squad of many youngsters and we hope to play a good match against Al Duhail. We have decided to rest some senior players for this game in view of our forthcoming AFC Champions League fixture,” said Uygun.
“I am very confident in the young players and their abilities. Al Duhail have some good players much like Al Rayyan and Al Sadd. They are perhaps the strongest side in the QNB Stars League, but we will try to win.”
The Turk added for good measure that Al Gharafa are not scare of any team.
“We neither fear any team nor think about their players or standings. Rather, we focus on our players and what they can do to win matches. The performance in the last few games in the league does not actually reflect our true level. We have quality players who can make a big difference and we deserve a better position in the standings.”
Meanwhile, Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira exuded confidence ahead of his team’s Qatar Clasico against Al Rayyan at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium today.
“The game is crucial and we know the importance of winning it though we still have seven games remaining. The players are aware of it. We had not been playing with a full squad for a long time. However, we won many matches,” said the veteran Portuguese coach.
“I have great confidence in my players and we have a policy to groom youngsters. Al Duhail and Al Sadd must keep winning as Al Rayyan are close behind. I am also happy that Akram Afif has joined us.”
Ferreira added that the return of Baghdad Bounedjah after a long injury break augurs well for his team.
“Our strength is team work and not individual players. Ours is a squad consisting of many star players. The return from injury of Baghdad Bounedjah means another player would be on the bench,” said Ferreira.
Al Sadd’s attacking midfielder Jugurtha Hamroun, who also attended the press conference, said he was full of confidence ahead for his team’s clash against Al Rayyan.
“I don’t think there is any shortage of motivation or confidence. It’s the biggest match in Qatar’s league and everyone is motivated. I hope we beat Al Rayyan and make up for our earlier loss,” said the Algerian.
Meanwhile, Al Rayyan have just strengthened the squad with defender Ahmed Yasser, who played for Spanish side Cultural Leonesa, joining them
They also have Abdulrahman al-Harazi after his loan period to Al Sailiya and Hossam Kamal following his loan move to Al Arabi.
Al Gharafa vs Al Duhail, Al Gharafa Sports Club, 4.40pm
Al Sadd vs Al Rayyan, Jassim bin Hamad Stadium (Al Sadd), 6.50pm
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